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Reports from the Ministry of the Environment conclude that “the GFL Environnement inc. site. (…) could be the main source of groundwater contamination by PFAS in the Ménard/Rose-Marie residential sector.”

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Reports from the Ministry of the Environment conclude that the technical landfill (LET), commonly known as a dump, in Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton could be the “main source” of PFAS contamination of groundwater in a residential area. This observation should, according to experts, encourage the authorities to carry out analyzes around all dumpsites in Quebec to ensure the quality of the population's drinking water.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), commonly called eternal contaminants, have been attracting attention for months in the small municipality of Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton , in Estrie.

These chemicals, present in particular in certain waterproofing products, can have harmful effects on health. They were measured in significant quantities in the drinking water coming from the individual wells of several citizens.

The residential sector of Ménard and Rose-Marie streets , located near the GFL Environmental Inc. dump, is particularly affected.

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A concentration of 595 nanograms per liter (ng/l) was measured in a residence in the area. The threshold proposed by Health Canada in drinking water, which could become a standard, is 30 ng/l.

Reports from the Ministry of 'Environment of December 2023 and January 2024 consulted by Radio-Canada conclude that the GFL Environmental Inc. site […] could be the main source of groundwater contamination by PFAS in the Ménard/Rose-Marie residential sector.

Still according to Quebec's analysis, there would be a correlation between the contaminants found in the drinking water of certain citizens and those measured at the dump site.

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This observation does not surprise the professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Montreal, Sébastien Sauvé. Landfill sites are one of the very frequent sources of contamination of drinking water, underground water sources, he explains.

The mayor of Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Paul Sarrazin, said he was informed by the Ministry of the Environment at the end of January of the results of additional tests carried out in residences located near the dump. They effectively demonstrate that there could be a cause and effect link, he emphasizes.

The dump would not, however, be responsible for the contamination of wells located further in the heart of the village. The water would not come to the municipality.

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The mayor of Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Paul Sarrazin, in front of town hall. (Archive photo)

What surprises Professor Sauvé more is that the ministry's report shows that the captured water treatment system on site, loaded with contaminants, only manages to treat a small quantity of PFAS.

The ministry notes a concentration of more than 3,500 ng/l of PFAS in the water that was treated by the system which is not specifically designed to remove PFAS. Roughly speaking, this is 100 times higher than what is proposed for drinking water by Health Canada (30 ng/l), notes Mr. Sauvé.

The general director of the Quebec Common Front for Ecological Waste Management (FCQGED), Karel Ménard, explains that technical landfills (LET) do not have any standards to respect regarding PFAS. It is abnormal for PFAS to be found outside of technical landfills. We have a contamination problem, so we must act.

Sébastien Sauvé believes that the case of Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton shows the need to review the regulations surrounding the management and production of these contaminants.

I think everyone realizes that we have been sleeping on gas for too long.

A quote from Sébastien Sauvé, professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Montreal

Karel Ménard also calls for a tightening of the rules. We should establish minimum acceptable standards, because these are still contaminants that can have serious impacts on human health, he emphasizes.

The general director of the Environmental Technology Business Council of Quebec (CETEQ), Kevin Morin, who represents in particular the owners of technical landfill sites (LET) in the private sector, including GFL Environmental Inc., ensures that its members collaborate with the Ministry of the Environment.

Information collection is reportedly underway. This is to document the situation and then be able to identify the best measures for the impacts of PFAS on landfill sites, he explains. To see the quantity that could be treated and, if so, determine what the best technology would be to control the impacts.

As soon as the standard is identified, the methodology known, the LETs will collaborate in the process in an obvious way to ensure that there is a provision that complies with the regulatory requirements.

A quote from Kevin Morin, general manager, Quebec Environmental Technology Business Council

According to Mr. Morin, the necessary adjustments to treatment systems should not represent an issue for private LET managers, who are already dealing with excessively strict regulatory requirements.

GFL Environmental Inc., which operates the Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton site, declined Radio-Canada's interview request. The company faces a class action request filed by citizens.

Professor Sébastien Sauvé also believes that as a preventive measure, the water quality of all wells located near Quebec dumps and other potential sources of contamination should be tested. The best way to find out for sure is to analyze drinking water sources, he emphasizes. Karel Ménard agrees.

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Fitch Creek flows into Lake Memphremagog.

Other landfills are suspected of releasing PFAS into the water. According to a 2021 report commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, these contaminants were notably detected in Fitch Creek, which flows into Lake Memphremagog.

The latter represents the source of drinking water for thousands of Estriens. A former landfill site is located near the creek.

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Fitch Creek flows into Lake Memphremagog.

The mayor of Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Paul Sarrazin, also suspects that the source of the water contamination found further in the heart of the village would be attributable to an old dump. We have hypotheses. It seems that in the past, there would have been an old dump on land behind the school, he explains.

The Quebec Environmental Technology Business Council believes that the source of the problem should also be addressed. Should we limit the use of PFAS in our common products, such as raincoats, which then end up in landfills? Technical landfills manage the material at the end of its life, but they do not generate it, emphasizes Kevin Morin.

Karel Ménard also believes that consideration is required to limit the presence of these products in products. I don't find it normal that landfills contain PFAS. We find them everywhere, on my jacket, my sweater, in the papers, he explains.

We must act upstream, that is to say at the level of the distribution and use of PFAS.

A quote from Karel Ménard, general director of the Quebec Common Front for Ecological Waste Management

The Ministry of the Environment was not in a position to #x27;grant an interview to Radio-Canada this week. Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton recently awarded a mandate to a team of researchers to carry out tests in around thirty additional wells in the municipality. She thus hopes to find the sources of contamination in the heart of the village.

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